PHILADELPHIA, Pa (WPHL)– A former Philadelphia Police officer and a former Catholic Priest have been convicted in separate child sexual abuse incidents.
According to the District Attorney’s Special Investigations Unit, former Philadelphia Police Officer Patrick Heron and former-Catholic priest Armand Garcia were charged in separate criminal proceedings for various counts of sexual abuse allegations with minors.
Former Officer Heron pleaded guilty to 2 counts of Unlawful Contact with a Minor, 2 counts of Sexual Abuse of Children, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, Official Oppression, Kidnapping of a Minor, Indecent Assault, Forgery, and Stalking for five criminal cases brought against him by the Special Investigations Unit.
Former-Catholic priest Armand Garcia pleaded guilty to Corruption of Minors and Unlawful Contact with Minors, said the DA’s office.
and will be sentenced in January 2024.
Officials say the Commonwealth court had been preparing to go on trial for over a decade for the allegations brought against Heron for the dozens of women and girls he abused, assaulted, intimidated, photographed, and attempted to silence, without their consent.
During the investigation, detectives seized a large number of digital images and videos from accounts linked to Heron, which depicted Heron engaging in sexual abuse and assault conduct with various women and girls in the backseat of his patrol vehicle, while he was on duty, armed with a gun, and in uniform.
In one video which was shown to the Court of Common Pleas during a hearing, Heron was seen encouraging a woman to use intravenous drugs in the back of his patrol vehicle, before he sexually assaulted her.
If Heron were convicted for all 218 criminal charges brought upon him, Heron would face more than 1,300 years in prison. As of now, Hon. Giovanni Campbell has sentenced Heron to 15 to 40 years of incarceration for his guilty plea for all charges on the joined criminal cases against him.
“While the Commonwealth was fully prepared to take Patrick Heron to trial for what we know to be his yearslong predation of vulnerable women and girls while he wore a badge, we are comfortable with this conviction which avoids a jury trial and the inevitable retraumatization of victims and witnesses. The survivors who were prepared to testify against Patrick Heron have expressed to us their relief that he is being held accountable and can no longer hurt another girl or woman.” said, Special Investigations Unit Supervisor Lyandra Retacco.
“The predatory sexual assaults committed by former Police Officer Patrick Heron – and his criminal efforts to cover up his many crimes – are an egregious abuse of his position of trust. The survivors – including Jane Doe who has not yet been identified – deserve to know how this officer’s crimes went unreported and unchecked within law enforcement for so long. And they deserve all of our support in addressing the trauma they have suffered. The systemic failures within law enforcement that enabled then-Officer Heron to assault and abuse vulnerable women and girls – including child runaways and people living with addiction – for a decade or more must be remedied”, said District Attorney Larry Krasner.
The criminal acts of Garcia were brought to light by a 13-year-old girl who had met Garcia at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish elementary school. The 13-year-old witness told the court about the PTSD and trauma she endures daily due to Garcia’s abuse and manipulations.
“I want to thank the survivor of then-clergy Armand Garcia’s foul crimes for persevering despite many procedural and pandemic-related delays since she first contacted authorities in 2017 to report Garcia’s crimes against her that began when she was a child. Armand Garcia will never again be allowed to abuse his position of trust as clergy and will never again be allowed to use the church to access vulnerable victims.” said, DA Krasner.
Sexual abuse and rape counseling and services are available courtesy of the DA’s Special Investigations Unit. Survivors and those seeking assistance should contact WOAR Philadelphia’s 24/7 hotline at 215-985-3333..